My Life as a Traveler

It doesn’t Matter-horn

I find it unbelievably generous that Jean-Pierre and Patricia are having guests as they prepare to leave for a week-long trip to New York in just 3 days. Today we are on our own as they run errands and carry on with their life.

Before we left the US, we bought a Swiss Pass, allowing us 3 days of travel within a month’s time. Our hostess suggests that we use the pass to visit Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn. (The real Matterhorn, not the Disneyworld one.) I protest a bit that the weather forecast for Zermatt is 28 degrees and snowing, but it is Zermatt, after all, with a nice train ride along the lake and through the valleys that lead to the mountain itself. And Susie likes the snow. In May. So, off we go. Rick Steves (my favorite guidebook author)  says, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Well, we have tennis shoes and lots of layers, so we should be fine in the snow, right? We probably won’t see the Matterhorn, but it doesn’t matter, the train ride will be scenic and the village will be interesting, if touristy.

We arrive at Zermatt, the end of the main train line. There are smaller funicular and cogwheel trains, but they are closed. In fact, most of the town is closed – it’s not skiing season and it’s not hiking season. It seems to be raining season. It’s raining a lot. We walk a couple of blocks and we are wet. Wet. We want snow. We find the one cable car that is open and take it to the first stop on the hill. SNOW! Big floating flakes of snow. Unpacking our lunch, we find a dryish ledge just big enough for our bottoms and a nice cable-spool-table which has just enough snow to chill our wine and enjoy our sandwich picnic with the snow falling all around us. It’s cold, but beautiful.We can’t see the Matterhorn, but it doesn’t matter.

Fully fortified, we head down the mountain back to Zermatt, a walk that’s supposed to take just an hour. We slog through the snowdrifts past mountain barns and sparkling streams. We look for the Ricola (you know, the cough drops) Herb Garden, but it is closed. We stumble on to an Alpine chapel, small and simple, the date on the door says 1642. Warm, for a minute. Back to Zermatt, it is raining even harder. The crunchy white snow that supported our tennis shoes on the mountain has turned to gray slush that splashes as we walk. Did I say it was cold? After a visit to the Matterhorn museum for half an hour without wearing wet coats, (oh, so that’s what a marmot is!), we grab a hot chocolate and settle in on the train for our 3 hour trip back to Lausanne. Our wet things come off and cover the small heaters at our feet.

Fifteen minutes down the hill the train stops, not at a station. Then it starts going backward. What!? The conductor (a nice young woman who reminds me of the boy’s first girlfriend) goes to each person on the train, explaining in the appropriate language, that there was an avalanche on the track below and the train cannot continue. Buses have been called and they are on the way to get us down the hill. She says, “It’s the Adventure Train!” We wait on the train for about half an hour, trying to dry out. But soon they need the train somewhere else, so we are ousted into the rain, cold. We wait under the covered patio of the station restaurant, shivering. Susie flirts with the handsome Swiss rail manager, which gets us on board another train, warmer, to wait.

Finally, after about an hour from the stoppage, the buses come and we ride down the hill, trying to see where the offending rocks landed on the tracks below. Patricia is called and holds dinner for us. Even though our pants have started to dry, our socks and shoes are squishy wet. That hot shower never felt sooo good. Did we see the Matterhorn? No, but it didn’t matter.

One response

  1. Beth

    Wow!!! I’ve just caught up on the most recent entries and looked at all the gorgeous photos–what a perfect break from grading! This is just wonderful, Julie; it really does make me feel like I’m tagging along with you guys. You’re such a good writer and photographer; what a great idea to document your travels this way! I can hardly wait for the next installment!

    We have finally gotten a break in the weather back home; the past two days have been much cooler and more seasonable, with lovely breezes–which means I’m spending lots of time out on the front porch, even grading. Be done tomorrow–yay!

    Keep on having fun, and love to Susie!

    PS I hope you ate some Gruyere cheese for me! : )

    May 8, 2010 at 7:23 pm

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